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Hailo jumps ship in US after facing cutthroat competition

Unable to keep up with Uber and Lyft, the taxi e-hailing service abandons operations in North America.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Hailo is an app that lets taxi drivers connect with passengers more easily. Hailo

While taxi-hailing app Hailo is wildly popular in Europe, it's had trouble catching on in the US -- so much so, that it's decided to close up shop.

Hailo president and co-CEO Tom Barr announced Tuesday that the company is pulling out of North America because fierce competition has made it difficult to be profitable.

"We're particularly excited about the strength of our business in Europe and in Asia, and the set of new services built on our technology," Barr said in a statement sent to CNET. "In the next phase of our growth, we have decided to put all of our energy and resources into these areas. We have therefore decided to end our operations in North America, where the astronomical marketing spend required to compete is making profitability for any one player almost impossible."

Hailo launched in 2010 as a smartphone app for taxi drivers. Rather than creating a new type of service, like competitors Uber and Lyft, Hailo was designed to let cab drivers connect with passengers more easily. Since its launch, Hailo has announced new features, such as a concierge service for private hire drivers. The company says it's in roughly 30 cities worldwide and has carried more than 20 million passengers to date.

Still, Hailo is small time compared with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft. Uber is currently operating in more than 200 cities in 45 countries; and, Lyft covers more than 60 cities in the US.

Both Uber and Lyft have stepped up competition in the ride-for-hire world. Not only have they slashed fares to battle taxi companies for a bigger share of the market, but they've also waged price wars against each other. Both companies have temporarily cut fares by as much as 30 percent in cities where the other operates.

Barr said the decision to pull the plug on Hailo's US operations was hard but he's looking forward to beefing up the company's service in other countries.

"This has been a difficult decision to make, and we are very sorry for the impact on our colleagues who will leave the company and are doing everything we can to help them with their future careers," Barr said. "We and our investors are confident that our sharpened focus on Europe, Asia and services will help us have the biggest possible impact for our passengers and drivers."